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(post, Cynthia Lair)
A bit of depressing news is the recent recommendation that we start giving cholesterol-lowering drugs to children who are at risk for developing obesity and diabetes. That’s a lot of kids. Recent statistics claim that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. Oh me, oh my. I do understand. Kids who are at risk typically come from families where one or more of the parents is obese, diabetic, or both. The chance that the parents are going to model eating and exercising in a way that will prevent the child from following in their footsteps is slim. Statin medications are the number-one-selling drug in the world. The side effects from these drugs are numerous. We don’t really have any long-term studies on what the drugs are doing for adults, or if they are really helping. Unfortunately, despite dozens of studies, cholesterol has not been shown to actually cause cardiovascular disease. [%image reference-image float=left width=300 caption="Why can't we feed our kids the best food we can muster?"] In fact, cholesterol is needed to make hormones. Without it, we would not produce estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. It is vital for the functioning of nerve synapses and provides the structural integrity for our cell membranes. Cholesterol is used by the skin to help prevent water evaporation and to make our skin waterproof. Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol. Currently many cancers as well as other diseases are associated with low levels of vitamin D in patients. And bile, used for fat digestion, consists mostly of cholesterol. The liver produces about 90 percent of the cholesterol in our bodies; only 10 percent comes from diet. If we eat too much cholesterol, the liver decreases the output of cholesterol. The way we correlate eating healthful fats like butter and beef with a build-up of cholesterol that irrevocably leads to heart disease is a shaky leap-frog kind of logic that doesn’t really make sense. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, believes that blaming cholesterol for heart disease is like blaming the Band-Aid for the cut. A stimulating website, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, generates articles from an association of scientists, science writers, physicians, and other academically trained individuals who are skeptical of the cholesterol hypothesis. Check it out if you want a fresh look at this deeply ingrained myth. Why can’t we feed our children with the best food we can muster? Delicious homemade whole-grain bread with organic butter is satisfying. Fat-free yogurt and diet Coke leave the body craving more. Why is the kids' menu in the restaurant the cheapest, most tasteless food that the restaurant makes? Will parents now forget to ask their kids to bike to school or limit TV time or forgo driving through Wendy’s — and just pop pills in their mouths and sweeten their cereal with Splenda? It’s one thing to saddle adults with a lifetime of prescription drugs, each one begging for another to ease the side effects of the previous one, but do we really want to do this to our kids?